Onward: Grande low-fat half-caff story of how Starbucks survived and thrived

Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its SoulOnward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the story of how Howard Schultz, once he became CEO (sorry, Howard, but I capitalize it) of Starbucks again, managed to turn around the company’s finances during the recent recession by modernizing it while remaining true to its mission. “Onward” is how he signs his memos, in case you’re curious.

I enjoy going to Starbucks, so I was predisposed to enjoy the R&D and marketing stories of the various products (Pike Place Roast, VIA, Vivanno) that I’m familiar with. One thing this book proves is that Schultz knows and loves coffee! When he writes about coffee, his words seem to leap off of the pages and take on a life of their own. Make no mistake — this is a CEO book. Victories are loudly and frequently trumpeted and defeats are quickly glossed over. There is frequent name dropping and back-patting.

Oftentimes, the narrative jumped back and forth through time. While I understand that it was to demonstrate how different projects and events came to pass, it was a bit jarring to go from Schultz being 4 months into his CEO post back in time to the meetings he had two months before he decided to take the post. Reading the transcripts from memos, meetings & earning calls grew tiresome. I work for a national corporation and once you’ve read one memo (especially the “shared sacrifice” type) you’ve read them all.

If you don’t like Starbucks, I think this book will annoy you to no end. But if you like real-life stories of corporate derring-do, pick up this grande sized read.

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